Former Grove City College president joins Pa. Gaming Control Board
A Bethel Park Republican who never doubled down in blackjack or hoped for triple sevens at a slot machine in a Pennsylvania casino is the state's newest gambling regulator.
“It was never part of my lifestyle,” Richard G. “Dick” Jewell said, “but I've never been against it.”
Jewell, 70, joined fellow members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Tuesday for a license renewal hearing for Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino in the Allegheny County Courthouse. A day earlier, the appointee of House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, was sworn in.
“It's an industry that is getting mature in this state,” Jewell said. “At this point, it is beginning to grow and get more robust. There are lots of rules and oversight. I know that sounds generic, but it's true.”
Jewell, former president of Grove City College, did not speak during the three-hour hearing. He listened intently as employees of the North Shore casino touted successes and community members voiced support for a three-year license renewal.
A second hearing is planned in Harrisburg. The board will decide on the renewal afterward.
It will hear testimony Wednesday in Washington County about renewing the license for The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in North Strabane.
Jewell's family moved from Long Island, N.Y., to Pittsburgh when he was 11. His father worked for Westinghouse.
Jewell graduated from Bethel Park High School then attended Grove City College, where he became a two-time Penn-Ohio diving champion. He served in the Army and later graduated from the University of Michigan law school.
In 1974, he joined Grove City's board of trustees, becoming its youngest member ever.
Jewell's career as an attorney and businessman made him a director of the Pittsburgh office of Navigant Consulting Inc., a Chicago-based national forensic accounting firm, and put him on boards of several charities, including YMCA, National Kidney Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh Youth Golf Foundation.
His prowess for politics and civic affairs led him to serve as finance chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee.
Jewell makes an excellent addition to the gambling oversight board, said Jim Roddey, the county's GOP chairman and one-time chief executive.
“He's a seasoned executive in the private sector, he has a great personality, he's outgoing, and he's well-informed on the issues,” Roddey said.
Turzai said Jewell's background played a part in his choice: “Accountability and responsible growth of this industry requires strict oversight and the highest integrity to guide it. Dick personifies these values.”
In 2003, Jewell became president of Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts school in Mercer County, a job he held until 2014.
His successor, Paul McNulty, called Jewell “a tireless leader” and predicted he will bring “a proven and steadfast commitment to excellence to this new role.”
Because he never frequented casinos, Jewell said serving on the Gaming Control Board never occurred to him until Turzai approached him several months ago.
“It actually was an easy decision once I looked into it,” he said. “It gives me a chance to give back to taxpayers. For me, it also was something new to learn in my life.”
Lawmakers established the seven-member Gaming Control Board as an oversight and licensing agency when they approved casinos in 2004.
Jewell succeeds Harrisburg attorney John J. McNally III. His two-year term runs through January 2017.
Bill Patton, a spokesman for the state House Democratic Caucus, said Jewell “appears to have a strong background.”
“It's a very important position that has some big decisions to make in the next two years,” Patton said.
The state awarded 13 casino licenses and has one remaining, tentatively slated for a harness track and casino proposed near New Castle, Lawrence County. In addition to Rivers Casino and The Meadows, Western Pennsylvania has Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin in Fayette County and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie.
Legislators in recent years have considered expanding gambling to include online wagering, keno and video poker in bars and restaurants.
Jewell said he has no stance on the issue: “I've never really thought about it, to be honest.”
One area about which he intends to learn more is gambling addiction.
“That is always a concern, and it should be,” he said. “With any process in life, there are pros and cons, ups and downs.”
Dianne Berlin, coordinator of CasinoFreePA, said she hopes Jewell's background brings a fresh sense of responsibility to the board.
“There has always been a very cozy relationship between members of the so-called Gaming Control Board and the casinos,” Berlin said. “It will be very interesting to see what Mr. Jewell feels his role will be. Grove City, from what I understand, was built on a good moral foundation.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.